by Nancy Kincaid (Back Bay Books, 2005)
reviewed by Augusta R. Scattergood
The small town of Pinetta, Florida, feels like the places many of us remember from our 1950s childhoods. Snakes, quicksand, hurricanes and tornadoes. Dusty roads, backyard games with neighbors, and a school principal whose worst nightmare was reining in bad boys scribbling fairly tame graffiti on school buildings. Ah, the good old days.
Of course, most of us wouldn’t have befriended a prisoner on a chain gang, even if he were young and handsome and wrongly accused. But in Nanci Kincaid’s latest novel, Berry Jackson does just that, and then the 13-year-old decides nothing much happens in Pinetta. In fact, most of the characters in this compelling story think this long, hot summer is pretty uneventful. That is, until a storm blows most of the local school away and the chain gang shows up to repair it. And the Methodists try to out-sing the Baptists until their preacher up and runs off and nobody can quite decide why.
In this town where “cool was only a thing we dreamed” under icy-looking stars, few families own TVs, so folks drink tea and gossip to keep up with the news. The teenagers sneak out windows and run away from abusive families, and neither preachers nor teachers are immune to bad behavior. As Berry and her friends dig a hole big enough to sit in, keep cool, and try to figure out the world, we are right there with them in Pinetta.
As Hot As It Was You Ought To Thank Me may have a forgettable title, but you won’t soon forget the book. This is not a typical Southern Gothic-humored or cornponed story. Kincaid knows how to write. You can’t put this one down.
When a book like this one ends, you wish for more, and this one offers something even after you close that last page. The author’s suggestion of “Some Books That Made a Difference” is a list of recommended reading that will keep you busy until Kincaid writes a new novel.
We can hope that won’t be long.
Gusty Russel Scattergood, a native Mississippi Deltan and retired librarian, writes book reviews for USADEEPSOUTH and other publications. Read more of her reviews at USADEEPSOUTH by clicking here: USADS BOOKS
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